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Home > Learn > Intimacy > >Benefits of Sex During Pregnancy

Benefits of Sex During Pregnancy

Dec 06, 23 6 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

Sex is a great way to feel connected to your partner, and some research shows that there may even be some benefits associated with sex during pregnancy. As always, a healthcare provider should be consulted before trying any new activities. Be sure to talk with your provider before having sex if they haven’t already given you the green light. 

Is It Safe to Have Sex During Pregnancy?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), most sexual activity, including penetration, is likely safe for those with a healthy pregnancy. [1] Those who should avoid having sex include anyone who’s been deemed high-risk or diagnosed with certain conditions or complications, such as placenta previa, preeclampsia, etc. [1-2] Check with your healthcare provider if you do want to have sex during pregnancy. Learn more about the safety of sex during pregnancy. 

When To Stop Having Sex

If you notice any heavy bleeding, leaking fluid, pain, or persistent cramping, you should alert your provider. [1,3] If you are in good health and have been cleared by your provider, you may be able to continue having sex until delivery. [1] It’s normal for your libido to change during pregnancy, and sex may be more physically difficult the further along your pregnancy progresses. Keep open communication with your partner about what feels good, what doesn’t, and if you’re ever in any pain. Read about potential danger signs during pregnancy. 

Benefits of Sex While Pregnant

If you are feeling up to sex and you’ve been cleared by your provider, there are some potential benefits to having sex while pregnant. 

Intimacy With Your Partner

Physical intimacy can sometimes feel different during pregnancy. Your belly is growing, you likely have uncomfortable symptoms like swelling ankles, nausea, back pain, and fatigue, and hormones are raging. Having sex or finding other ways of being intimate with your partner may help to strengthen or maintain your relationship. Other ways to encourage intimacy with your partner include hand-holding, massages, kissing, date nights, and more. 

Natural Pain Relief

There are a myriad of aches and pains associated with pregnancy, from round ligament pain to headaches, to achy feet and legs. Fortunately, there are some options available for treating or managing pain, and sex may be able to help. There are many different endorphins and hormones that are released during sex, such as oxytocin and dopamine. [4] The release of these endorphins and feel-good hormones may actually contribute to some pain relief. [5] On the other hand, it’s important to stop having sex if you are in pain or experiencing discomfort, and you should never feel pressured to have sex if you don’t feel up for it. If your problem seems to be vaginal dryness, talk to your provider about fertility-friendly lubricant options. 

Supports Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest during pregnancy isn’t always easy. Between a growing belly, daytime fatigue, and other uncomfortable symptoms, it may be hard to sleep the way you used to or to feel adequately rested. A few studies have shown that sexual activity and intimacy may be able to improve sleep and overall well-being. [6-7] If you really want to set yourself up for success, you may want to consider a Magnesium Plus nightcap before or after having sex for ultimate relaxation support! 

Enhances Mood

As already mentioned, sex releases various hormones and endorphins in the body. Hormones like dopamine and oxytocin are natural feel-good hormones that can enhance your mood, help build trust, encourage romantic attachment, and help you feel focused, motivated, or alert. [8-9] Research also shows that a satisfying sex life has a positive effect on self-esteem and well-being in pregnant women. [10] 

Boosts Immunity

That’s right, having sex may actually help your body fight off disease. A few research studies have found that increased sexual activity was associated with a more competent immune system, meaning a lower incidence of disease and an increased ability to fight infection. [11-12] This isn’t to say that having sex will stop you from catching an oncoming cold, but consistent sexual activity during or outside of pregnancy may be supportive of your immunity in the long run.  Natalist call to action featuring pregnancy lube

What to Avoid When Having Sex During Pregnancy

If you have a high-risk pregnancy or have been diagnosed with any complications, you may need to avoid sex or penetration altogether. [1-3] It’s also best to abstain from sex and contact your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any leaking fluid, vaginal bleeding, opening of the cervix, pain, or prolonged cramping. [1-3] Some researchers also warn about air embolism, which may occur if air is blown into the vagina during oral sex. [13] Air embolism can lead to dangerous health effects for both mom and baby. Speak to your provider to get more information on what is safe or unsafe when having sex. 

Support Intimacy With Natalist

It’s natural to have questions and concerns while navigating the fertility, pregnancy, or postpartum journey. I encourage you to reach out to your provider directly for advice catered to your specific body and pregnancy. If you’re looking for pregnancy-safe products to promote intimacy and relaxation, we’ve got you covered. Find fertility lube, lotions, and oils in our self-care collection, or keep reading about intimacy on the Natalist blog.


Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.

Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, youth, and mentoring. She is a Scrubs Camp instructor, a program to increase student entry in healthcare, and serves as a Compassion International adoptive parent. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women.  



References:

  1. Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy? American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. February 2021. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/is-it-safe-to-have-sex-during-pregnancy
  2. Brito, Janet. Cadman, Bethany. What to know about sex during pregnancy. Medical News Today. March 2023. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321648
  3. Sex during pregnancy: What's OK, what's not. Mayo Clinic. July 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/sex-during-pregnancy/art-20045318
  4. Calabrò RS, Cacciola A, Bruschetta D, et al. Neuroanatomy and function of human sexual behavior: A neglected or unknown issue?. Brain Behav. 2019;9(12):e01389. doi:10.1002/brb3.1389
  5. Endorphins: The brain’s natural pain reliever. July 2021. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/endorphins-the-brains-natural-pain-reliever 
  6. Lastella M, O'Mullan C, Paterson JL, Reynolds AC. Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population. Front Public Health. 2019;7:33. Published 2019 Mar 4. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033
  7. Oesterling CF, Borg C, Juhola E, Lancel M. The influence of sexual activity on sleep: A diary study. J Sleep Res. 2023;32(4):e13814. doi:10.1111/jsr.13814
  8.  Oxytocin. Cleveland Clinic. March 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22618-oxytocin
  9.  Dopamine. Cleveland Clinic. March 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22581-dopamine
  10. Branecka-Woźniak D, Wójcik A, Błażejewska-Jaśkowiak J, Kurzawa R. Sexual and Life Satisfaction of Pregnant Women. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(16):5894. Published 2020 Aug 13. doi:10.3390/ijerph17165894
  11. Haake P, Krueger TH, Goebel MU, Heberling KM, Hartmann U, Schedlowski M. Effects of sexual arousal on lymphocyte subset circulation and cytokine production in man. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2004;11(5):293-298. doi:10.1159/000079409
  12. Ramadhan MA, Hashim HT. THE EFFECTS OF SEXUAL FREQUENCY AND IMMUNE BOOSTING MINERAL INTAKE ON IMMUNE STATUS IN COVID-19 SUSCEPTIBLE INDIVIDUALS. Fertil Steril. 2021;116(3):e113. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2021.07.316
  13. Hill BF, Jones JS. Venous air embolism following orogenital sex during pregnancy. Am J Emerg Med. 1993;11(2):155-157. doi:10.1016/0735-6757(93)90111-n

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